State of the Watershed Spotlight | The Forces Shaping Ecological Health

September 7, 2018


On September 27th, the Council for Watershed Health and LA Sanitation will host the 2018 State of the LA River Watershed Symposium, convening diverse stakeholders and expert panelists to identify actionable next steps for creating a healthy and resilient watershed. CWH will share a decade of LA River monitoring data and the comprehensive story of the river’s condition, which includes water quality, habitat assessment and aquatic health.


As the watershed continues to face the threats of fire, urbanization, invasive species, and changing flows, we must holistically understand and address how these forces are shaping the health of our River and streams. In the following paragraphs, you will get to know our expert panelists who will guide “The Forces Shaping Ecological Health” discussion to understand how these key stressors are challenging the watershed and the approaches we can take, together, to preserve and enhance ecological health.


Moderator – Wendy Katagi, Stillwater Sciences

 Wendy Katagi is leading Stillwater Sciences' Los Angeles office as Senior Manager of Watershed and Ecosystem Restoration Services. Wendy has managed large-scale restoration projects focused on native fish reintroduction, fish passage, integrated water resource/water quality management, multi-species recovery, and urban stream and lake restoration throughout California. She serves on the City of LA Biodiversity Expert Council.  Stillwater assists clients in maximizing ecosystem benefits while meeting other obligations of water delivery, infrastructure upgrades, water quality, and flood management. Wendy is a Certified Environmental Professional/Senior Project Manager, with over 28 years experience in managing design/engineering and CEQA/NEPA/permitting documents and in directing large multi-disciplinary teams of engineers, planners, scientists, and constructors. She managed the first endangered steelhead recovery projects in the San Juan Creek Watershed and Arroyo Seco (for Arroyo chub), in the LA River Watershed. She has an extensive background in regulatory compliance and grant funding, totaling over $240 million (Santa Ana Watershed) and integrated planning to produce multi-benefit projects that incorporate water supply, water quality, flood, and recreational opportunities with habitat restoration and protection. She has managed a large watershed-wide stakeholder program to develop 20 Prop O projects for the City of LA's $500 million Clean Beaches and Rivers initiative to meet TMDLs while providing multiple benefit projects ranging from wetlands, streams, and lake rehabilitation to green streets in strategic sites throughout the LA River Watershed.


The Changing Nature of Flows – Eric Stein, SCCWRP

Dr. Eric Stein is a principal scientist at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP), where he is head of the Biology Department.  Dr. Stein oversees a variety of projects related to in-stream and coastal water quality, bioassessment, hydromodification, watershed modeling, and assessment of wetlands and other aquatic resources.   His research focuses on effects of human activities on the condition of aquatic ecosystems, and on developing tools to better assess and manage those effects. Prior to joining SCCWRP in 2002, Dr. Stein spent six years as a Senior Project Manager with the Regulatory Branch of the Los Angeles District Corps of Engineers, and four years with a private consulting firm.



Biodiversity in Los Angeles – Isaac Brown, LASAN

 Isaac Brown is a nationally recognized landscape ecologist and planner specializing in urban biodiversity and ecosystem management.  Isaac has applied these concepts in professional urban planning and green infrastructure projects worldwide including the San Francisco Sewer System Improvement Program, the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Sustainability Management Tools, and the Arizona State Land Department’s Superstition Vistas growth area.  Isaac is currently coordinating the development of an urban biodiversity strategy with the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and Environment. Isaac holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, and is a doctoral candidate in Environmental Science and Engineering at the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability.  His research includes developing urban ecosystem health indicators for Los Angeles that integrate biodiversity, ecosystem services, pollution management, and environmental hazards.  This is the first attempt to create a comprehensive urban ecosystem framework for L.A.’s built environment, and represents a promising new direction for sustainability of cities worldwide.


 Urbanization: the Symptoms and Opportunities to Promote Ecological Health –

Sophie Parker, The Nature Conservancy

Sophie Parker is a Senior Scientist in the Los Angeles office of The Nature Conservancy. She has over 20 years of experience in ecology and conservation science, and has provided scientific leadership to Conservancy projects in southern California since 2008. Dr. Parker leads The Nature Conservancy of California’s Renewable Energy science team in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, guides the organization’s stormwater capture and habitat enhancement engagement along the Los Angeles River, and is forging new methodologies for the planning and implementation of urban conservation through the Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) project. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, Dr. Parker was a postdoctoral scholar studying mycorrhizal fungi. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at UC Santa Barbara, where she examined the role of soil nitrogen in preventing the reestablishment of native bunchgrasses in previously invaded Calif